Sleep tracking often feels like a white whale for many fitness-tracking companies—often, even popular fitness trackers are inaccurate at best. For a long time, the only way to get truly accurate sleep tracking was by shelling out for a dedicated sleep tracker like the Withings Aura, and even then they’re not perfect.
With Sleep Stages, Fitbit claims that its sleep tracking has taken a major step forward and can provide information that you’d normally only be able to get from expensive sleep studies, such as accurate records of how long you spend in light sleep, deep sleep, and REM. If you own a Charge 2, Blaze, or the brand-new Alta HR, you can take advantage of the Sleep Stages. Fitbit provided an Alta HR so I could test the effectiveness of Sleep Stages.
First, a word about the Alta HR: I think it’s an excellent all-around fitness tracker. It’s compact, visually appealing, and reinforces Fitbit’s reputation for accurate and useful fitness tracking. The small LCD screen is still large enough to tell time and provide text notifications, and thankfully the battery lasts long enough so that you don’t have to worry about charging daily (I had to charge mine about every five days). If you’re looking for a new fitness tracker that does all of the basics, it’s hard to say no to the Alta HR.
But in this test, I especially wanted to drill into the Alta HR's Sleep Stages tech. I'll admit that my sleep schedule has been spotty at best—and that's why I've long sought a sleep tracker that could tell me how I normally sleep, and adjust my sleep cycle accordingly.
Overall, the Alta HR is a useful and valuable sleep tracker. Unlike other sleep tracking apps I’ve tried (such as SleepAs Android and Sleep Better by Runtastic), Fitbit's sleep tracking tech doesn't need to be told when you’re going to sleep—the Alta HR automatically recognizes when you’re falling asleep, and, from my tests, it’s pretty good at it.
You need a T-shirt that lets you move freely, keeps you dry, and wicks sweat fast. That's why we've picked 13 of our favorite shirts of spring 2017. They can withstand the demands of cross training, CrossFit, and circuits workouts, no matter how much you sweat or how many times you're dropping under a barbell.
You start by standing on the scale (easy enough). In less than a minute, ShapeScale's arm revolves around the central stand, spiraling upward as it scans your entire body using infrared light and a camera snapping hundreds of pictures. The device then creates a digital rendering of your body and its proportions. Noteworthy: You don't need to be naked to use it, but the company recommends you wear tight-fitting clothes to get more consistently accurate scans over time.
With the ShapeScale's accompanying free app, you can see the exact dimensions of your chest, arms, legs, and waist. You'll also get a glimpse at any discrepancies and imbalances in your arms and legs.
To be fair, this tech isn't exactly revolutionary—previous body scanners did something similar, although you'd have to stand on a rotating platform and try to stay still as the stationary scanner did its thing. On those old models, though, changes in lighting altered the accuracy of the readings, and most men and women felt a tad self-conscious standing half-naked on a rotating platform in front of their fellow gym-goers.
Because it tracks both your weight and the shape of your physique, the ShapeScale can show you your "localized lean mass" and "localized body fat" measurements. So, rather than getting the obtuse BMI measurement, you see exactly what areas are holding on to fat. In fact, that's where we believe ShapeScale will really hit home with consumers: Visuals are stronger motivators than numbers, especially because you can be blasting away fat and steadily gaining muscle, but the scale may never budge. That's defeating for many people trying to transform their physique—especially if they're not taking before-and-after photos.
With the app, you can select two dates—like Day 1 of your weight-loss or mass-building protocol, and then again on Day 14—and see how and where your body's changing, via the app's heat maps. Orange and red areas flag growth, whereas blue and green areas reveal loss. You can also use the "Difference View" to see how far your problem areas have come, like where your belly was on New Year's Day versus the first day of beach season.
Ultimately, the ShapeScale is easy to use. Even if you can't stand still for 30 seconds, you can get a quick 10-second scan if you want to just check on the progress of your abs. Plus, consider the alternatives: You're not gonna break out measuring tapes, calipers, or a water displacement test every day, even if you happen to carry them around in your gym bag.